Should CEDIA Change its Name?

Installing packaged systems does not mean integrators are not capable of doing “custom” work or that they are less technically astute.

Jason Knott · September 4, 2013

Should Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) change its name, either replacing or eliminating the word “custom”?

I ponder the question not because the organization is doing anything wrong or that its efforts are out of date. Just the contrary … CEDIA’s efforts to push its members outside of the audio/video realm and into the IT/IP/Networking area are commendable.

Related: CEDIA Says ‘Resistance to IP is Futile’

I ask the question because the membership itself is evolving. I consistently hear more frequently from integrators that they are shifting away from creating one-off “custom” systems for clients in favor of standardized, cookie-cutter packaged systems. For some, systems that are designed from scratch and built one at a time for each client are the minority.

Don’t hold your nose. These pre-packaged systems use equipment and programming (when necessary) that have been tested and previously deployed for other clients and are easier to install. For some integrators, they will rarely alter from these packages, knowing that they will suit the needs of 90 percent of clients. They know that when customers ask to swap out components, it only leads to problems. Indeed, equipment swapping is becoming more prevalent as consumers develop affinities for certain equipment brands.

Moreover, installing packaged systems does not mean integrators are not capable of doing “custom” work or that they are less technically astute. Custom is not dead … it is alive and well, but every CE pro, even at the ultra-high end, has to admit that repetitive standardization in their business is productive and increases profit.

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And even though every job is unique, integrators should be using a previously designed and installed system as the basis for new projects, even if you don’t want to let the customer know that. Although, I can see where a client might feel more assured if you tell him, “I’ve done installations just like yours many times flawlessly” vs. how he might react to a statement like, “Your job is custom. I haven’t tried this system configuration before but I am sure I can get it to work.”

And I’m not just speculating, by the way. Some fascinating new analysis by consultant Paul Self based of data from the just-released CEDIA Benchmarking Study shows that for the typical integration company 69.7 percent of their revenue comes from small, repeatable jobs that are under $10,000. Another 17.1 percent of revenue comes from jobs between $10,000 and $20,000. That means an incredible 86.8 percent of integrators’ revenues come from smaller cookie-cutter jobs.

Name changes are not unprecedented. A few years back, the industry association for security dealers changed its name. Known as the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) since 1948, the association recognized that the name was long past its prime. The name NBFAA did not reflect security systems integration, not to mention it completely omitted the key security categories of access control and CCTV/surveillance. Thus, the Electronic Security Association was born.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) used to be known as the Radio Manufacturers Association (RMA) when it started in 1924. In 1950, it changed its name to Radio-Television Manufacturers Association (RTMA). In 1953, it changed its name to Radio-Electronics-Television Manufacturers Association (RETMA). Do we think any less of CEA?

Nearly four years ago, the buying group HTSA became the Home Technology Specialists of America, inserting the words “Home Technology” where “Home Theater” had previously been. It was a direct reflection on the evolution of the audience.

My two cents: the “C” in CEDIA could simply change to “Consumer” and the acronym stays intact. As the industry gathers in Denver this month for CEDIA Expo 2013, I hope this opens up a dialogue on the subject.

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  About the Author

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at

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